Posted: Friday 16th September 2016 by ColinsBlog
Otter (c) Pete Walkden
Colin takes a look at the state of the UK's wildlife and what we need to do...
With the publication this week of the 2016 State of Nature Report we are all reminded of the precarious position of the UK’s wildlife.
Although there are some minor differences in the statistics compared to the previous report these are mainly down to the availability of improved data and assessment methods. That means we are still facing a situation where, since 1970, just over half of species have declined and just under half have increased.
At first sight that may not seem too dramatic but more detailed analysis of the report reveals that more than one in ten UK species are threatened with extinction, and there is little evidence that the rate of loss of those species in decline is slowing down. It also reveals that the relative abundance of wildlife in the UK, as measured by the new “Biodiversity Intactness Index”, an internationally recognised approach, is below the global average and ranks the UK at 189 out of 219 countries.
Of course there has been a lot of media coverage but this has too often been simplified to “conservationists blame farmers for decline in UK wildlife”. Again, read the report and it clearly identifies agriculture, which accounts for 75% of land management, as having the single biggest impact on nature, with climate change also a significant factor, but we all know that farming (and therefore farmers) has been driven by decades of policy and funding based on the EU Common Agriculture Policy. Brexit surely means that we have a once in a generation opportunity to change the basis of agriculture and support farmers to deliver for the environment over the next fifty years.
I think most people will agree that if this report is to really make a difference, its legacy must not be as a catalogue of the data and the trends, which really confirm what most people knew or suspected anyway, but instead how we now respond as a nation, as conservationists, as farmers, as local communities, to take action. This report must lead to a new approach where we have a positive vision for the future where conservationists, governments, farmers, businesses and individuals pull together. The Wildlife Trusts will be at the heart of this - campaigning, supporting, enabling and delivering nationally but, more importantly, locally.
Wildlife needs our help like never before. We know that action is possible – the report tells us of some fantastic success stories of the last fifty years such as the return of the otter from threatened extinction. Our task now is to do whatever it takes to create a brighter future for nature and for people.
To discover more about how you can help visit The Wildlife Trusts' State of Nature web pages.